The Systems Development Life Cycle, or SDLC, was originally created to describe the steps (or phases) of a software development project. [mfn]A Case Study of the Application of the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) in 21st Century Health Care: Something Old, Something New? Mark McMurtrey university of central arkansas Volume 1, Issue 1, Winter 2013 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/jsais.11880084.0001.103[/mfn] The SDLC is as old as digital computing itself. Although the number of stages and their respective names may vary somewhat over time and use, the described activities in the SDLC have remained relatively consistent.
In healthcare, the SDLC is a helpful framework to categorize the ‘stage’ a software app (or IT service) is in, relative to your organization. When using the SDLC this way, all of your software products and services (e.g. EHRs, telemedicine apps, reports) exist within a never-ending cycle of Planning, Analysis, Design, Implementation, Testing, and Maintenance.
A major significance of using the SDLC in health IT, is the framework serves as a reminder that IT projects never actually end: your best case scenario is you transition from one phase to another. This isn’t to say that you should cancel the celebration for when you meet your implementation objectives. You deserve to celebrate. The SDLC is a project management tool reminding you:
- Major activities related to a stage should happen sequentially.
- Don’t skip an activity or stage.
- The system is always in a stage, therefore demanding (at least some) resources.
- Every system has an expiration date that you are working towards, although you may not know exactly when.
When used as a project management tool, the SDLC may help governance by:
- Project organization and gatekeeping that ensures that IT projects remain targeted on highest priority business needs, schedule, and cost constraints.
- Improve project performance by applying repeatable processes
- Provide guidance and consistency to project managers regarding the activities and deliverables required for project planning and execution throughout the organization
- Establish a minimum set of core activities and deliverables for all IT projects.
- Enable reuse and comparison of of templates and other documents from one project to another
- Standardize IT project management based on best practices.
- Identify and organize key processes that must be followed for project success, and to meet Federal regulations and other compliance mandates.
The AHRQ SDLC consists of ten stages:
- Requirements analysis
- Operations and maintenance
Note that the AHRQ SDLC is not intended to be one-size-fits-all, and may be inappropriate for your specific needs.
The first step (or very last step, depending on how you look at it) of our SDLC model identifies the business need for change. In other words, identifying the business needs that are currently unmet. These unmet needs could be a result of evolving needs of your end users, deteriorating capability of supporting the current system, for example.
Once a preliminary need is identified, the next step is to develop a full business case analysis and preliminary project management plan for the analysis and design (or selection if you are buying ). The outcomes of these initial phases include approval of initial project cost, schedule and performance baselines, requirements development, and final specifications(if building) or contract awarded (if buying).
In these stages the system is tested according to documentation, and users adopt the new system and processes. Data should be migrated to the new environment before testing to ensure no conflicts with production data content or size. User and admin training happens, implementation readiness is assessed, and then execute the implementation plan.
Support the users and operational requirements of the system. Manage change requests and assess the impact of the system on operations. Begin Planning and Analysis for major changes or even a new system.